A Late Prosthetic Fix Has Beatriz Hatz Back On Track Heading Into Parapan Am Games
by Karen Price
There was a point this summer when Paralympian Beatriz Hatz felt her confidence slipping.
She finished fourth in the long jump and seventh in the 100-meter sprint at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris, and while those results are more than respectable, she wanted better. She wondered, is it me? Am I not working hard enough?
Lo and behold, a very recent visit with a new prosthetist led to the revelation that the blade she’d been using was meant for someone 25 to 30 pounds heavier. It didn’t matter how hard she trained because the prosthetic was just too stiff for her weight.
With a brand new, more flexible blade, Hatz is ready and raring to go at the 2023 Parapan American Games taking place in Santiago, Chile, right now.
“For this particular meet, I want to win all my events,” said the 23-year-old from Littleton, Colorado. “I want to talk away with four gold medals, ideally. Anything can happen in a race, and I don’t count anyone out, but I’m confident in myself, and that first step to gold is feeling confident in yourself, confident in your coaching, confident in your training and confident in the process.”
Hatz was born without a fibula in her right leg, which led to an amputation just below the knee when she was still an infant. She started competing in track and field in high school after a friend challenged her to a race, and in 2018 she was named U.S. Paralympics Track & Field High School Female Athlete of the Year.
She’s now one of 16 Paralympians anchoring the team of 60 that make up the U.S. contingent at the Parapan Ams. She’ll compete in the 200-meter sprint on Wednesday, the long jump on Friday and the 100-meter sprint and universal 4x100-meter relay on Saturday.
As an amputee, she said, having the right prosthetic can mean the difference between success and failure. Finding a prosthetist who’s willing to listen, who’s patient enough to work through what can be a long process to get the fit just right and who understands the mechanics of running and the demands of an elite athlete isn’t easy.
And it turns out the blade she was using up until recently was too stiff to compress properly and the energy was just shooting back up into her knee, leg and back.
Fortunately a visit to her second prosthetist this year brought the issue to light. Hatz was able to get a new blade just before Parapans, and although it’s risky to make a big change on the eve of competition, she felt the difference immediately.
“It was like jumping on concrete versus jumping on a trampoline,” she said. “It was an insane difference. The equipment really does matter, and I’m excited to try it out. Where better than the Pan Am Games? I finished fourth in the world in long jump, and I believe I can walk away with better accolades here with a softer blade.”
In addition to feeling the stress from not getting the results she was hoping for on the track, Hatz said worries for friends and other concerns off the track weighed heavily on her mind this summer. She recently started seeing a sports psychologist and said that, too, has helped.
“It was tough, and I’m still young,” she said. “I think even quote-unquote real grownups don’t always know how to balance stress like that. But seeing a sports psychologist has made a difference, and being at this meet on my new, softer blade, my confidence has skyrocketed. No matter what, I know I’m headed in the right direction for Paris. And sometimes you have to go through these lows in order to appreciate the highs.”
Hatz has every intention of being not only in Paris for the 2024 Paralympics but also Los Angeles four year later as part of a long, successful athletic career.
When she dreams of returning to the Paralympics in search of her first medal — she was fifth in the long jump and sixth in the 200- and 100-meter races in Tokyo — she dreams of having her family in the stands and making them and her sponsors proud. She also wants to be an example for children with disabilities, especially those who are being teased or told they can’t play with the other kids because they can’t run or jump.
“I want to show kids they don’t ever have to feel less than,” she said.
And while she’s at it, she’d like to show some adults a thing or too as well.
“Let’s show the world that people with disabilities aren’t trying to be athletes. No. Let’s show the world we are athletes. We’re elite athletes,” she said. “We’re not disabled athletes, we’re athletes. Period.”